I love Annaleigh Ashford, but I was surprised when she was cast as Dot/Marie. She doesn't fit the mold of the women who have played the role in major production. That being said, I found myself actually laughing tonight. This show presents pretty heavy material, but Annaleigh was able to mine out every little nugget of comedy. Conversely, this made her more emotional moments even more heart wrenching. I found her Marie to be more engaging than any of the others I've seen. Her southern drawl peppered act II with sass, which again, made the ballads ever more powerful. Her connection to her mother in the painting during "Children and Art" was palpable.
Jake Gyllenhaal is thoroughly impressive as George. You'll be shocked when you hear him sing. He's not just one of those actors who happens to sing well...he's a Singer with a capital S. His portrayal of the dogs is a highlight as the comedy juxtaposes the seriousness of Act I George. His impeccable diction makes the fast paced numbers, namely "Color and Light" and "Putting it Together," a dream to listen to.
The supporting cast fills out the painting with standout performances from Erin Davie and Ruthie Ann Miles. This is truly an ensemble show and it's refreshing to see actors, the aforementioned specifically, who have starred in previous shows be able to blend into the chorus, yet deliver a knockout line when the libretto dictates.
I firmly believe that our favorite shows affect us differently at different phases of our lives. We relate to characters differently, a previously ignored song stands out, or a particular scene is revealed to us in a new light. That new moment for me tonight was Dot's speech before "Move On". When she explains what she learned from George, she talks about concentration. When she was younger, she thought it meant standing still and focusing, but now she knows concentration means feeling comfortable where you are, not living in the past or the future. This really stuck me. It's a common sentiment to live in the moment and live for today, but the idea of concentration really gripped me. In a sense, she's admitting that George was never in the wrong in their relationship, but he helped her to grow and change, which helps her to go forward. It's absolutely gutting to think that two people can be right for one another all along, but the timing doesn't work. However, Dot and George don't feel that way in the end. They honor their time together and move forward. I always say that Sunday is the most cathartic closing number in the entire musical theatre canon and George's final spoken sentence really provides closure and hope for the audiences. "White a blank page or canvas, his favorite, so many possibilities."